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In wild card contention - Stellar play puts squad within striking distance

This year’s Brooklyn Cyclones may not be as dominant as the 2007 version, which finished with the best record in the New York-Penn League but came up short of a championship.

But there’s one quality this team has in abundance: resiliency. It is this attribute that has propelled the ‘Clones from a mediocrity to within a hair of a Wild Card playoff berth as of press time on Monday.

Riding an 8-game winning streak, Brooklyn is now only a half game behind the Jamestown Jammers for the Wild Card with six games remaining in a season that ends Saturday.

It was as recent as July 27, after a 15-2 drubbing at the hands of the Staten Island Yankees, when the Cyclones stood at 18-21, five games behind the Wild Card lead. Since then, they have gone 24-7, and need just one more week of good baseball to sneak into a playoff spot that seemed hopelessly out of reach not long ago.

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The week began up in Troy, NY, when the Cyclones looked for their second straight win against the Tri-City ValleyCats, a Houston Astros affiliate with the league’s second-worst record.

Down 4-2 in the eighth inning, Brooklyn scored two runs to tie the game, which eventually went into extra innings. The ‘Clones scored in their half of the tenth inning, but gave the lead back with a bases-loaded walk in the bottom half of the frame.

They broke through for good in the eleventh, however, when catcher Jordan Abruzzo doubled home Jose Jiminez to give Brooklyn a 5-4 lead that stood as the winning margin.

The Cyclones looked to complete the sweep of the three-game series the next night. To do it, they sent out starting pitcher Scott Shaw, a recent draft pick who has helped anchor Brooklyn’s league-best starting staff this year.

Shaw was excellent as usual, lasting six innings while giving up just two runs. Brooklyn’s bats took care of the rest, exploding for five runs in the first two innings en route to a 7-2 win.

With the sweep in hand, the ‘Clones went back to Brooklyn for a three-game set against the Oneonta Tigers, a Detroit affiliate and another sub-.500 team. As they did against the ValleyCats, the Cyclones were able to make hay, notching another three-game sweep.

The series began Wednesday night, as the ‘Clones rode another strong pitching performance by Brad Holt – whom the Mets drafted in June with the 33rd overall pick – to post a 3-1 win.

The outcome of this one was in doubt until the eighth inning, when Brooklyn center fielder Sean Ratliff untied a 1-1 game with a two-out, two-run single. The hit gave Ratliff – a promising but inconsistent recent 5th round draft pick out of Stanford – his third RBI of the night. In the fifth inning, he had hit a solo home run to tie the game.

The train kept rolling the next night. Spurred by another strong starting pitching effort – this one by talented 18-year-old Jenry Mejia – the ‘Clones cruised to a 6-0 victory.

The game marked the Cyclones debut of highly touted shortstop Wilmer Flores, a 17-year-old Venezuelan who made a splash across baseball circles when he signed with the Mets last year.

Flores did not disappoint, going 3-4 with a double and an RBI single, giving the Cyclones the last of the five runs they scored in the third inning.

On Friday night, the ‘Clones closed out the sweep using the same formula they had the night before: early offense and excellent pitching.

The ‘Clones scored three runs in the second inning to overcome an early 2-0 deficit, giving them a 3-2 lead they would hold onto for the rest of the game. During the three-game series, Brooklyn’s pitchers allowed only three Tigers to cross the plate.

With a six-game winning streak, the juggernaut Cyclones headed up to Dutchess County to take on the Hudson Valley Renegades, a Tampa Bay Devil Rays affiliate that received a boost from the recent addition of the 2008 first overall draft pick, shortstop Tim Beckham.

A recent-call-up from Rookie-level ball, Beckham acquitted himself in his first NYP League game, going 2-4 with a double.

The game went into extra innings, tied 4-4, but the ‘Clones pulled ahead to stay in the tenth with a leadoff home run by left fielder Eric Campbell, who has been one of Brooklyn’s most productive hitters this year.

And on Sunday night, Brooklyn won its eighth in a row, 3-1, behind a strong pitching performance by Shaw and two home runs by Abruzzo, giving the burly catcher six round trippers in just 164 at bats for Brooklyn this year.

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